Commissioner Michael Owen was at the recent ribbon-cutting to celebrate the opening of the newly widened Bell Shoals Road.

Residents and commuters who travel Bell Shoals Road will have a finished new corridor this month as a ribbon-cutting event celebrates the completion of the expanded roadway.

The 3.1-mile corridor has two new vehicle lanes, bike lanes and sidewalks in both directions. A new traffic signal has been added at Starwood Avenue, and the existing signals at Glenhaven Drive, Rosemead Lane and Bloomingdale Avenue have been upgraded. In addition, the existing bridge over the Alafia River was widened.

These tremendous enhancements will accommodate higher traffic volumes, improve stormwater drainage and boost the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists. Additionally, they will increase access to transit and alternative transportation while preserving infrastructure assets.

The new Bell Shoals Road corridor is the latest in a string of massive infrastructure projects in Hillsborough County, including the Bruce B. Downs Boulevard expansion, the Citrus Park Drive extension and the Paseo al Mar Boulevard overpass connecting U.S. 301 and U.S. 41 in South County. All of these projects increased safety for drivers as well as pedestrians and bicyclists, and improved mobility across the county.

The Bell Shoals Road project cost just over $70 million, including land acquisition and construction. The project was paid for with a variety of funding sources, including the Community Investment Tax (CIT), federal grants and mobility fees. The widening plans were introduced to the community at an open house public meeting held at the Bloomingdale Library in October 2018 with construction beginning soon after, so the excitement to announce completion of the five-plus-year project was palpable.

Representatives from five of unincorporated Hillsborough County’s seven districts were present for the ribbon-cutting, along with Carl Harness, chief human services administrator for Hillsborough County; Kim Byer, assistant county administrator of the Public Works Administration; and Suzy Watts, Bloomingdale Neighborhood Association president.

“Bell Shoals is major thoroughfare for this community and all of East Hillsborough,” District 5 Commissioner Donna Cameron-Cepeda told the crowd, adding that the road and its artilleries “serve tens of thousands of people each day.” Referring to the overwhelming input given from residents at that meeting five long years ago, she reiterated how the outpouring “showed how much the community values this work.”

District 4 Commissioner Michael Owen, a longtime resident of the area, followed by explaining how important completion of Bell Shoals was to the surrounding area.

He said, “This is where multiple communities come together to share this road,” including Brandon, Riverview to the west, Lithia to the south and Valrico to the east, while emphasizing there is still “more work to do on this side of town” as growth continues.

Owen commended county staff and fellow Board of County Commissioners colleagues, stating that over the past year they’ve “turned a focus over to roads and infrastructure” after “hearing loud and clear from constituents,” promising to stay the course. He mentioned Lithia Pinecrest Road and Triple Creek Boulevard as roads that are “desperately needed” in this part of the county, with the Bell Shoals widening being the first step to achieving that goal.

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Brian Bokor
Brian Bokor has lived in the Valrico area since 1997 and started writing freelance for The Osprey Observer in 2019. Brian (appraiser) and his wife, Sharon (broker), run a local real estate company (Bokors Corner Realty) as well as manage the Facebook page Bokors Corner, which highlights local-area commercial and residential development.